L4422 - from the setter IP: 126.96.36.199 Posted on November 22, 2016 at 09:35:06 PM by Andrew Fisher
Well, it looks as though the denouement has proved controversial for many, though I certainly didn’t intend to produce an unfair endgame or deter people from submitting solutions.
The back story to Buried Treasure involves a few things – I had wanted for a while to create a puzzle with a treasure hunt or geocaching theme, and had also been musing about exploiting a sequential message within a grid’s unchecked letters. These ideas needn’t have come together in the same puzzle, but when I overheard a news report about a helicopter sea rescue which used the phrase ‘search area’, I thought of the golden hare of Masquerade lurking as a hidden word, in either the title or preamble. This justified a puzzle involving an extensive hunt (perhaps with red herrings, though some ingenious solvers picked up on completely unintended grid material). It would also need to include acronyms for thematic reasons, and I wanted a similar level of intricacy to Loda’s classic Listener #4018 from 2009 which required multiple passes through clues and grid before reaching the endgame.
As for requiring a highlight outside the grid, I thought it would be innovative and memorable for solvers – but not unattainable, because the preamble asked for letters (not cells), and used the unusual phrase ‘search area’ when normally solvers are not directed where to look. My test solver and the two Listener editors all cracked this solution, though there were concerns as to whether the gimmick would work in the Listener series. I think it was a fair assumption that only stronger solvers would get through the tough clues, and then have the experience to think (literally) outside the box. I doubt the editors will comment publicly, but part of their unwritten remit is to challenge solvers’ expectations.
I was, of course, overlooking that the trick would be discussed online well before the deadline; I am not deprecating online discussions per se, but it was amusing to read the apoplectic squeaks coming from some of the posters who were openly trading solutions on both Answerbank and Crosswordsolver before deciding what was fair.
I am wholly unrepentant about Buried Treasure and remain proud of it, but solvers may be glad to realise that this is probably a gimmick which can only be pulled off once. Perhaps it isn’t a bad thing to have one’s puzzle counted among the ranks of vexing Listener solutions such as MynoT’s gaudeamus highlight, Sabre’s KOHb grid entry, Jago’s origami wren etc. I also remain fairly confident that disgruntled Listener solvers are (a) too polite and (b) too geographically dispersed to get up an effective lynch mob.